The Mandala and the Maelstrom

The Mandala and the Maelstrom

Volpini Suite: Dramas of the Sea: A Descent into the Maelström, by Paul Gaugin

In an article I wrote called “The Involution of Consciousness,” I was led to a very important symbol that has greatly influenced my thinking, i.e. the Maelstrom. I wrote these words:

We are swirling within Soul’s Maelstrom. Round and round we go in this world, and ever downward. But, as we move deeper into the Vortex of Life, we move, simultaneously, inward and closer together. The lower we go into the Maelstrom, the quicker consciousness increases.  Let this image burn within your mind.

I have just realized, or maybe re-realized, that, if you look straight down into the whirling vortex, the Maelstrom is a mandala. So, the interpretation I wrote is yet another meaning for this ubiquitous symbol.

I quoted a poem by Edgar Allan Poe:

It may look like boasting — but what I tell you is truth — I began to reflect how magnificent a thing it was to die in such a manner, and how foolish it was in me to think of so paltry a consideration as my own individual life, in view of so wonderful a manifestation of God’s power. I do believe that I blushed with shame when this idea crossed my mind. After a little while I became possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl itself. I positively felt a wish to explore its depths, even at the sacrifice I was going to make; and my principal grief was that I should never be able to tell my old companions on shore about the mysteries I should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies to occupy a man’s mind in such extremity — and I have often thought since, that the revolutions of the boat around the pool might have rendered me a little light-headed (A Descent Into the Malestrom, by Edgar Allan Poe).

Poe obviously believed that plunging into this mandala meant the sacrifice of death. What if the center of the mandala symbolizes death? Perhaps not necessarily physical death (although it could mean that too), but transformation? Could it be death of the old and birth of the new? He greatly desired to explore the depths of the maelstrom, and he realized it would mean great sacrifice. Isn’t that the way of the soul? We die many deaths during the process of soul-making. Old things die and new things take their place. We never step into the same river twice.

We fear death very much, probably because, since the days of St. Paul,  death has been thought of as an enemy to be extinguished, hence the quest for eternal life. But we fear exactly what we need. Death represents transformation, and we are terrified of change.

As we move within the swirling mandala, we move closer together. I think this could mean that we become more familiar with the many aspects of the soul, the autonomous archetypal personalities that dwell within us. It could also mean drawing closer in global consciousness because we know that the microcosm is a mirror of the macrocosm; as above, so below.

So, just more food for thought in my search for alternative meanings from the mandala symbol.


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